THE BLOG
11/22/2011 06:30 pm ET | Updated Jan 22, 2012

Communities Skip Washington for Green Action Locally

With political gridlock preventing politicians in Washington, D.C. from reaching agreements on, well, anything, it's easy to imagine the entire country is suffering from a similar political lockdown. However, municipalities across the country are coming together and moving ahead in America's clean energy discussion. One way they're doing it: building a new generation of green schools.

Greening American schools could save $20 billion over the next ten years, says Rachel Gutter of the U.S. Green Building Council. It would also create a new generation of "sustainability natives," students who understand the energy challenges of the future and are uniquely prepared to approach them:

Building Green for the Future from Center for Innovative Media on Vimeo.

One great example: Environmental Charter High School in California, where it isn't enough to build a school that integrates everything from solar paneling and sustainable materials to energy use monitors. ECHS also hosts the Green Ambassadors program, which encourages students to make positive changes in their communities through comprehensive educational programs.

Showing it doesn't need Washington to show the way, the Massachusetts community of Ashland bypassed state and federal politicos to build a local sustainable school. This just the first step in Ashland's bid to join the Green Communities program, which currently hosts over 80 Massachusetts towns committed to lowering their carbon footprint.

Beaverton School District in Oregon has 21 certified green schools, where students learn about waste and water management alongside arithmetic and English. Students have initiated programs to reduce electricity usage, recycle milk cartons and lower the carbon footprint of their community. This all comes as part of another regional community program, Portland's Master Recycler Program.

All around the country, communities are taking the lead in building sustainable schools and neighborhoods. By fostering a new generation of energy-aware leaders, communities hope to benefit from the growing green collar job industry while safeguarding against the potentially damaging effects of climate change. Why are they moving and Congress isn't? Could be they have to face the real consequences of a changing planet, and they know they need to do something fast.

Is your community working together to help solve climate change conundrums? Share your local innovations by submitting a video to Planet Forward!